In Budget Proposals, Tech Department Seeks to Modernize State Website, Deploy Digital ID

The California Department of Technology has submitted two budget change proposals that, if approved, could streamline how residents access online services and activate the next steps in updating a key site.

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The state technology department is seeking additional staff and millions in funding to modernize aspects of IT that could significantly change how Californians interact with their government.

In one budget change proposal (BCP), the California Department of Technology (CDT) is asking for 10 additional positions and nearly $2.3 million from the General Fund in the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 fiscal years to continue development of a “reimagined” ca.gov, the state’s web portal, and to expand the CAWeb team for quicker response times. In another budget change proposal, CDT is asking for two additional positions and around $1.1 million from the General Fund in the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 fiscal years to “deploy a Digital Identification (ID) ecosystem for an initial subset of state services.” It’s unclear when the Legislature will hear the proposals; it is currently reviewing both. A CDT spokesperson said the department will hold its comments until the budget is final. Among the takeaways:

  • Reimagining ca.gov is not a new idea; a team of 11 state staffers and private-sector technologists spent three months in 2019 and 2020 creating alpha.ca.gov, a new look at the website that was grounded in resident needs identified through user research. In its budget change proposal, the department highlights the Alpha project, which it created in partnership with the Office of Digital Innovation (ODI) and other entities as a proof of concept for a refreshed site. It notes that its Office of Enterprise Technology and ODI have “recently reinitiated their CA.gov collaboration in anticipation of building out a staffing and project plan for the development of the ‘Beta’ CA.gov website.” CDT also seeks to “increase capacity and reduce time required for onboarding partner agency websites into the state’s web enterprise platform.” Echoing references in “Vision 2023,” California’s statewide technology strategic plan released in January, CDT points out in its proposal that “California government entities independently manage over 350 separate websites, with CAWeb currently hosting and managing 56 of those sites.”
  • As CDT points out in the BCP, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget directs the California Government Operations Agency, CDT, ODI, and the Department of General Services to “begin the next steps in modernizing and improving the way in which individuals engage with state government,” with significant projects including migrating department websites to CDT’s Web Enterprise Platform and “evaluating compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility requirements.” If the BCP is approved, CDT indicates it would add two web publishers (IT specialist II and I), one developer (IT specialist I), one search and analytics analyst (IT specialist I), and one accessibility specialist (IT specialist I) to work on providing “increased capacity for the CAWeb Enterprise Platform effort.” The department would also add a product manager/lead (IT specialist III), two user experience designers (IT specialist II and I), a user researcher (IT specialist II) and a content strategist/designer (IT specialist II) to work on ca.gov.
    “This effort reinforces our digital infrastructure and uses technology to help transform public services and increased accessibility for all, while at the same time reducing costs and redundancies associated with the state’s web hosting infrastructure,” CDT said in the April 2 proposal.
  • In its other budget change proposal, also released April 2, CDT seeks $1.1 million in General Fund monies to deploy Digital ID in an environment that “will provide a consistent, secure, privacy-enabled, reliable and consent-based method to authenticate and verify” identities of people accessing the “subset of digital state services.” The initial deployment, CDT said, will yield valuable information for developing a road map for a wider expansion. In alignment with the governor’s proposed budget and the goals of “Vision 2023,” CDT said residents’ user experience needs to be simplified via “a single digital identifier.”
    “The recent health crisis starkly underlined the importance of being able to quickly deliver on emergency relief efforts for its residents and to adapt the IT infrastructure to support spontaneous and at times exponential growth in services demand while maintaining a high level of data security, privacy and availability,” CDT said in the proposal.
  • The Digital ID ecosystem will be designed to provide “program efficiencies and a seamless user experience” while maintaining “the highest levels of security for the data involved” and being complaint with state and federal statutes and policies. These will include the Information Practices Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Privacy controls will include resident consent and designation that each authorized service receive personal information to create the digital ID; confining authentication information required to be program-specific and obtained only as needed; and requiring law enforcement to get a subpoena, search warrant or “other legal process” to access system information. The two positions requested are for a Digital ID product owner (a Career Executive Assignment) and a business relationship manager (IT specialist II).
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.